Pocatello--Dispite a late fall heatwave, Scott Bird will wrap up potato harvest by the end of the week. A record 84-degree day added to the clouds of dust and the heat slowed workers that are weary from 21 days of back-breaking work.
"Who would have thought we'd have this kind of heat?" said Bird. "We've been at it for three weeks and should have been done but we stopped for a few days because some of the spuds were still green."
But Scott Bird is upbeat and so are other producers, Jerry Wright of the the United Potato Growers of Idaho says the 2008 harvest is looking strong. "The long term outlook for this market is fantastic."
Growers planted 300 thousand acres of potatoes in Idaho this year, 12 and a half percent less than last year. Wright says first indications are that the overall yield will be down about five to ten percent.
Wright said the new market mantra is that less is more even if its just 10 sacks per acre. "Somewhere around 357 hundredweight sacks per acre to 367. That would be your combined Norkota and Russet Burbank and that’s lower by ten to 20 sacks versus what NASS reported last year. There will be no shortage of potatoes but there won't be an excess either as there has been in the past to hold markets down.”
He says Norkota potatoes coming off now are larger than the past several years with more 40 through 60 counts than the market wants but the Russet Burbank potatoes are smaller.
Scott Bird is harvesting fresh pack Norkotas from fields just outside of Chubbuck. While yields are down slightly in Blackfoot, size and quality are excellent. Bird is giddy with excitement, yet cautious until the bills are paid.
"Our inputs were through the roof this year, we're hoping for a good year but won't know for a while." Bird and the rest of his neighbors are all in the same boat yet Jerry Wright is optimistic "All in all we should have a pretty balanced crop if we run these things in tandem and do some really solid storage management and supply management.”